Here are two versions of a song.
This is the one I heard first. It’s sweet and melodic and sad. It immediately became a song I needed to hear many times.
As it happens, it’s a cover, and here is the original. On first listening I liked it far less.
Probably all people who properly keep up with current music have heard the Post Malone version and not necessarily the Flor version, but I tend to come at everything sideways – in this case from letting Spotify play on after the last Haim album, which led me to Flor’s single ‘Guarded’, and some time later to investigating them further. Their recent album is a feast of irresistibly tuneful indie pop and I thoroughly recommend it. Also the singer, Zach Grace, is as cute as a bag of kittens.
But back to Post Malone. The original version of the song definitely grew on me. I post it here partly just to share the song in both renditions, but partly because it’s a case study in how trying to think about things can change my enjoyment or aesthetic experience of them. When I first heard Post Malone I thought “oh, the vocal is a bit forced, when Zach Grace has such a sweet, expressive voice; and the tempo is slower and it seems draggy; and where’s that great bass line I was enjoying; and I don’t like the hip-hop instrumentation as much as those clear and pearly guitar parts” (I was going, of course, from the cover to the original). However, the more agonised and rough delivery of the original version, and that tough guy aesthetic in the general musical style, makes sense with the lyric. “Oh, I fall apart, down to my core” – but he’s trying to self-medicate after his break-up – “harder than the liquor I pour” – and he’s resorting to misogyny in a crap, macho way that just confirms what a mess he is – “devil in the form of a whore”. When Zach Grace sings that line it sounds a bit rougher than the rest but it’s hard to believe he might mean it. When Post Malone sings it you see the ugliness in sadness, how falling apart means feeling and behaving like shit.
That all sounds very intellectually pleasing, doesn’t it? I should prefer the Post Malone version now, as being more insightful or authentic or something. Indeed, thinking through the song’s themes did go hand in hand with acclimatizing to Post Malone’s sound-world. But Flor’s sound is so lovely; and really I’d rather listen to them.